Give and Take

by Tiffiny

You look so peaceful lyin' here beside me. There's a little smile on your lips. I hope you're dreamin' about me. About us. With a sigh, I run my finger gently along the curve of your jaw. It feels slightly rough, like you haven't shaved for a few days. I like the raspy feel of it against my fingers. Of course, I like most things about you.

Starin' down at your sleepin' form, I feel the familiar pain begin to tighten my chest. Squeezin' til I can't hardly breathe. How is it possible, I wonder, for one person to give you everything and yet leave you with nothing?

You give me your body and take my heart. You give me your smiles and take my pride. You give me your love and steal my soul. Until all I have left is what you give me. These stolen moments. I don't know what I'll do when even that is gone. And I know it will be, one day. I'd have to be blind not to see that. And I may be the biggest fool on God's green earth, but there ain't nothin' wrong with my eyes. I see the way you look at her. The same way you look at me when we're together like this.

I reckon there ain't no point in worryin' about tomorrow though. No matter the cost, I'll pay it. Even if it means givin' ya up. Givin' ya to her. To a family and the kind of life we can never have together. I only hope there will still be a place for me in your future life. Like I said, I got no pride anymore. Not where you're concerned.

There are times I almost hate you for everything you've taken from me. For loving me. But not enough. For wanting me. But still wanting her, too. For trying your damndest not to hurt me. And doing it anyways. But most of all, for givin' me a taste of what I'll spend the rest of my life missin' when you're ready to move on. Then I look at you and I know that you're givin' me everything you can and it ain't your fault that it's not enough. It'll never be enough. And I think how much worse it would be to never know what it meant or how it felt to love you. Aww hell. I guess it's a case of damned if I do, damned if I don't, so dammit I will. I heard Josiah say somethin' like that once. It seems sort of fittin' to say it now. I think Josiah would approve, if he knew.

You're still sleepin' so peaceful. I've wanted to be right where I am, lyin' here beside you, for a long time now. Almost since the day we met. I don't think you started wantin' the same thing until that whole wagon train ordeal made you realize how close you'd come to losin' the two people you care about most. Poor Chris. Me, runnin' off with Charlotte. Mary, almost marryin' another man. Your whole world must've come crashin' down around your ears. I know mine did when I thought I'd lost your trust for good. I don't know why I thought she could make me happy. I guess it just felt good to have someone who needed me. Someone who was willin' to take what I had to give. But, as it turned out, even Charlotte didn't really want what I had to give. Guess I have a real talent for second best. Sorry. I know that ain't fair. It ain't that I'm second best with you exactly. I'm just not what you want outta life. You need a wife and kids. A family. You just ain't quite ready for one yet is all. You need to work through the pain of your past before startin' on a future. I know that. And so does she.

I remember our first night together. I was still pretty raw over the whole Charlotte thing and you were tryin' to come to terms with your feelin's towards Mary. And towards me I guess. They sure do complicate things, don't they? Feelin's, I mean. We'd both had more than our fair share of whiskey that night. Enough to make me feel brave, anyway. It was just the two of us, campin' out miles from town. So I asked you if you'd ever thought about bein' with a man. I tried to ask it real casual. I didn't want ya to guess I had any personal stake in your answer. But instead of haulin' off and hittin' me, like I half expected, or makin' a joke out of it, you stared at me intently and then turned your head to look at the campfire before replyin'.

"Just one." You said it so softly, I almost didn't hear ya. What would you have done if I hadn't? Would you have said it again? Maybe it's better I don't know the answer to that.

Lookin' back, it's a wonder we ever made it through that first night together. Neither one of us had more than the faintest notion of what to do. And yet... Awkward, more than half uncomfortable, it's one of my most treasured memories. The feel of your lips on my bare skin for the first time. The heat of your body. The touch of your hands. I still can't see or smell that damn ointment of Nathan's without remembering the feel of you deep inside me. And wanting to experience it all over again.

I sometimes think about ridin' out of here, settin' us both free. But I'm not strong enough to do it. I couldn't hurt ya like that. Because you'd never know why I left. You think I feel like you do. I ain't never told you any different. You think I'll be able to move on, have a family of my own one day. You think that what we have now is enough. The carin' and the friendship. To you, that's what's important. It is to me too. But I still don't know how I'm goin' to live knowin' I'll never be able to touch you again like I'm touchin' you now.

I ain't never told you I loved you. Not in words, anyway. I guess I'm afraid of what you'll say in return. Or what you won't say. You ain't never lied to me or made any promises beyond those of friendship. You know you wouldn't be able to keep them. You do feel more than friendship or you wouldn't be here in my bed right now. But you want other things even more than you want me. That's where we're different. There ain't nothin' I want more than you.

You're startin' to wake up now. In a minute you'll smile at me and take another piece of me that I didn't even know I had. And I'll smile back and give it to you gladly.